Posts Tagged ‘Krautrock’

Chris Forsyth

On his last outing, I’d noted that Chris Forsyth was pushing for ecstasy and coming damn close, and it seems that he’s gone ahead and finally touched the nerve on his ambitious double LP for No Quarter. All Time Present is a bigger, looser, sandier, and more hypnotic version of what Forsyth has become known for. Yanking the bit out of the teeth of Crazy Horse, he’s hitched it to a more cosmic conveyance this time around. The album finds its footing in the air-lock licks of ‘80s Robert Quine, the brittle balance of Michio Kurihara, and the desert playa chug of Tuareg players lost in deep in the trance of an unknown groove.

The album uses its considerable length as sky-high canvas, letting more than a few songs saunter up past the nine minute marker, but there’s never a sense that a note is dipped in indulgence. Four sides slip by in a fever dream daze that’s soaked in sweat and writhing in the wraps of psychedelia, folk, krautrock, and free jazz. Forsyth weaves a stylistic quilt that refines and nudges forward notions of the instrumental guitar album, never bogging down into pieces that feel like tessellations of the same idea, but instead locking together his disparate visions into a gnarled puzzle that tears open the sky with the lash of strings and cinder.

Though it would be a disservice to Chris’ own vocal contribution on “Mystic Mountain,” which he pulls off with a more tender touch than in the past, to let this off as simply an instrumental album. Similarly, the mirage manifestations of Rosalie Middleman are a highlight as she anchors the transcendental tangle of “Dream Song” to this plane. She’s not the only ringer in the ranks either. Forsyth enlists drummer Ryan Jewell (who’s seemingly everywhere this year) and Jeff Ziegler alongside members of his Solar Motel Band. They seed the album with all manner of musical minutia, culminating in the tower trance of “Techno Top,” a Neu/Rother inspired piece that’s well beyond the pale of what Forsyth had been tackling on earlier albums. He’s already proven it to be a crusher in the live setting, and it closes off the album in perfect pulsations. Forsyth has consistently proven to be a guitarist that transcends the tags associated with merely wrangling strings. On All Time Present he’s a songwriter shaping air into harmonious bursts of pain, joy, and danger and making it all sound vital.



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Tengger – “High”

After records on Must Die and GuruGuru Brain, South Korean family band / drone wizards Tengger land at Beyond Beyond is Beyond. The band has two records out in short succession in 2019, Spiritual in March on Extra Noir, and Spiritual 2 in June from BBIB. Like the previous release Spiritual 2 centers on the harmonium, voice and toy instrument drones of itta and Marqido, drawing on the traditions of Kosmiche travelers skirting the skyways before them. Mustering memories of Cluster, Michael Rother’s (recently reissued) solo works, or French Canadian floaters Harmonium, the first song seeping out to the public, “High,” sparkles with a serene burble. If the band hasn’t been on your radar yet then this is a good chance to grab a US release from the meditative duo. Spiritual 2 is out June 7th.

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Michael Rother – Solo

Odds are if you’re familiar with Michael Rother round about 2019, its from his work with Neu! or Harmonia. If you’re digging deep, perhaps from his short stint with Kraftwerk. This month, however, the light gets shown on Rother’s tight but enticing catalog of solo works as his label Groenland issues them in the box set SOLO. The tone in his works always captured a sense of wonder, but with Neu! there was also a feeling of modernity as well. Following his move to the smaller hamlet of Frost, in Northern Germany and his connection with Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius to form Harmonia, there slipped in a bucolic calm, but also (often to Rother’s chagrin) a formless float that wasn’t tethered to the heartbeat hum that had been his bedrock.

In 1976 the members all looked to solo ideas and Rother embarked on Flammende Herzen, which kept the calmer shades and lush atmospherics of his country surroundings but added in a bit more backbone than Harmonia had offered. This could quite rightly be attributed to excellent contributions by producer Conny Plank and Can’s own Jaki Liebezeit, but Rother’s vision was sound even without his ringers. The resulting album revels in natural wonder, working effervescent rhythms and Rother’s dewy guitar leads into an album that’s a soundtrack to the sun.

Surprised by its success Rother dove back in with a renewed confidence and a bigger budget, given that the solo album was outselling any of his previous works at home. Sterntaler follows much of the same feelings as the first LP before he broke new ground with ‘79’s Katzenmusic (inspired by his love of Cats) incorporating a less restrictive beat and a wider palette of instrumentation than before. While the record doesn’t exactly inspire mewling, its another instrumental dip into the blissful end of the pool, albeit now with a looser handle on the sticks and sequences. Quite sadly for audiences, this blissed trip would also be his last with Conny Plank at the controls. As he slid into his last, and quite frankly darkest period for ‘82’s Fernwarme, he’d leave behind his veteran producer in the process.

This last album in the set still retains Rother’s deft hand on the strings and synths, but turns a bit darker and away from his pastoral times, centering more on life in Hamburg than his idyll out in Forst. Jaki remains on the drums, giving the album another rhythmic tie in – looser still like Fernwarme wound up, but the record doesn’t capture the bliss as well as some of the others. The set’s rounded out with new live cuts and remixes, along with some soundtrack work, but its thos core four albums that make up the true meat of SOLO – a complete picture of Rother’s imprint on the guitar world bound up in one fine form. If you’re a fan of any of his other bands, not to mention other German Progressives like Ashra, Manuel Göttsching, Tangerine Dream, then this set seems like a solid place to spend a little time.



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L’Eclair – “Endless Dave”

Got a brand-new cut today from Swiss progressives L’Eclair. Their previous LP found a home on US psych enclave Beyond Beyond is Beyond last year and the band continues their psychedelic journey with the label on the upcoming Sauropoda out May 24th. The first peek behind the curtain at that lock-grooved wonder is the organ-drenched dripper “Endless Dave.” The track (and album to be quite honest) is buffed to a super-mod sheen, applying a lounge exotica lacquer to their bevy of Krautrock and Kosmiche twinges. The cut in question’s a 12+ minute cruiser of back-trunk funk that reigns it in cool and casual. The band keeps the bubbles simmering just below a full boil, spreading an air of karmic calm through the body like a heat wave. On their way out the door they plug into the cosmic end of the spectrum, tacking a few quasar-buffer burbles to their heady throb. “Endless Dave” serves as the focal point of the album and its as good an intro to the Swiss swingers’ modus operandi as any. Lock down on this one for now, but be prepared to dive even deeper come May.




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Snapped Ankles

Taken out of the context of their stage gimmick (instruments built into logs, ritualistic forest costuming) the music from London’s Snapped Ankles has always stood on its own. The band’s sound glides the knife edge between Krautrock and post-punk in a satisfying way – marrying the motorik grooves of Neu and Can to the caustic accusations of The Fall and the brittle tension of Wire. On their previous album they used the combination to explore shades of paganism burrowing under the veil of modernity. Now they go one shade heavier and a few steps deeper with an album that’s built to blow out the prosperity gospel from the inside and topple the creep of gentrification with the power of art-punk. Or so it would seem.

The themes on Stunning Luxury send up the corporate culture and indulgent inclinations of the developers and agents of change that seek to gentrify the landscape of Snapped Ankles’ warehouse scene. Class War and art-politik have always had a place in post-punk and they continue the tradition quite nicely, welding the rumble-funk of Liquid Liquid to the smirking slash of Gang of Four. They’re taking on the creep of capitalism’s basest impulses with a beat battered mirror – sucking the helium out of mindfulness, microdosing, and money management with equal vigor.

All the subversive slapback doesn’t mean a thing, though, if its not digestible and that’s where Stunning Luxury finds its foothold. The band’s catchy enough to underscore the best promotional clip on the power of positive thinking. It could easily integrate into the culture that they’re seeking to shred. Whether that means they get co-opted or they make a few middle managers think twice remains to be seen. The transformative power of music vs. capital isn’t a winning ratio in 2019, but the album remains an enjoyable ride with well-deserved targets nonetheless.



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Minami Deutsch & Damo Suzuki release Roadburn Session

In a meeting of two waves of Japanese psych, famed Can frontman Damo Suzuki teamed up with Guruguru Brain’s motorik heavies Minami Deutsh for a performance at 2018’s Roadburn festival. The live recording – which sees the band working tight corners, with their locked-on grooves and slash n’ burn guitar letdowns – also features the singer in true-to-nature form. While the band’s performance is airtight and barbed, Suzuki does them one better in the opposite direction. Letting his lyrics wander around in his trademark free association, the artist is echoing many shades of his former life in Can. The whole set is comprised of three improvisations and is available from London’s Fuzz Club records today.



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Sunwatchers

Following the searing burn of their previous album, II, is no easy feat but it seems that Sunwatchers are more than up to the task. As the band flings themselves into Illegal Moves, they tear another hole in the cosmic quilt – shredding the mind and invigorating the soul. Every minute of the new LP is built to launch the listener through a full-body wormhole in space and time – hurtling enough sax n’ skronk one minute to bend the brain, and cooling out the curdle the next with a rippling display of Kosmiche calm. In the world of Sunwatchers Free Jazz, Psychedelia, Krautrock and Space Rock are all on the same temporal plane – either that or once the needle drops we all inhabit several simultaneous universes that have converged on a single aural vessel to enter their plea for a balance between harmony and discord.

They were dipping into the well of electric Miles with shades of Ayler before, but that was then and this is now. Now there’s less mercy, less need to return to the structures that serve. Now the band is hot-gluing High Rise and Pharaoh Sanders to the tail pipe of Hawkwind’s space ship and letting the jagged edges tear up all the no wake zones along the Universe’s glowing canals. Now the band is slicing bits of Sun Ra’s Ark and tying them to the bumper of a biodiesel-powered minibus with Alice Coltrane (whom they cover as well) on the 8-Track at top volume – spreading an aura of defiant calm to the huddled masses. Now they’re building war cries and lullabies for a time when talk is rendered irrelevant so only the splatter of feedback and the warble of synths will communicate the proper level of dread and dreams and anger and anguish.

I said before that there’s no better moment in time for a band like Sunwatchers to exist, and I stand by that statement. The band is recording the moment the wave crashes and rolls back. Not only are they standing at the fray, but they’ve got the thread in hand to pull apart the seams as they tumble headlong into the unknown – taking us with them.



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Writhing Squares

The second slab from Philly’s Writhing Squares brings no disappointment, slump or stumble. The band is as restless and as ragged as ever on the new LP. Built from the embers of space rock and punk while chasing the same fevered hallucinations that haunted the ‘70s German Progressive set, Out Of The Ether imagines a less meditative method than the rhythmic wranglers that came before them. Storming through the halls of Hawkwind’s leather n’ lather vibes with whiffs of Amon Düül II piped in one speaker and The Contortions piped in the other, Writhing Squares aren’t here to get Kosmiche. Far from it in fact – they’re here to demand the cosmos pay up in sweat equity and they’re willing to rough up some rhythms to get their psychedelic due.

That the two halves of Writhing Squares come from a couple of Raven’s favored noiseniks is no surprise – the common ground between early Purling Hiss and Taiwan Housing Project is abundantly clear and goes a long way to explain the impulses at work on Out of the Ether. There’s an overt sinister quality to the record, rotted and raw. Writhing Squares conjure the sounds of nightclub sweat at the end of humanity’s rope. Post-societal collapse there’s no hedonistic joy, only the night terror taps of the band’s inhuman drums, the barbed wire gnash of vocal invective and the rusted saw of a salvaged sax beat into the shape of a call to arms. Provenzano and Nickles thread their wounds with bailing twine through the first half of the record, then smash the fourth wall to ecstasy with the side-long crusher “A Whole New Jupiter.”

While 2019 makes its play as a year that could use a record or two to salve our collective wounds, Writhing Squares make a damn fine argument to cut a few fresh ones first. There’s still work to be done. Stay agitated. Philly’s finest have your back.



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Snapped Ankles – “Drink and Glide”

UK rhythm-picked psych lobbers Snapped Ankles are back with a new album next March and its shaping up to kick just as hard as their last. The band has put forth a clip for lead single “Drink and Glide” that’s chafing the corporate mindfulness and self-care cavalcade. The song itself is built on their stew of hard-chugging rhythms, squelchin’ keys and anthemic vocals. Lotta psych bands utilizing the Echoplex vocal stab these days, but it takes a new tack to not make it sound like an Oh Sees rip. The band skirts the influence of their American compatriots, while crafting a sound that would slot in quite nicely next to them on any playlist. Feels like the second album is shaping up to be just as freakishly fun as the first. Check out the clip above and stay tuned as the album creeps closer.

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Writhing Squares – “A Whole New Jupiter”

I’d say that Philly’s Writhing Squares quietly released one of the best space rock records of 2016, but Writhing Squares don’t do anything quietly. The band is built on a wave of squall, pinning an insistent beat to fizzing torrents of bass and slashing sax. Their debut was a molten chunk of twisted nerve noise and zonked-out groove, so to properly follow it up the band drops another sixteen tons of motorik patter on your plate right out of the gate. The first premiere from January’s Out Of The Ether is the frothing side-long crusher “A Whole New Jupiter.” The nineteen-and-a-half-minute track boils over with bass n’ synth freak energies that flash through the atmosphere in heatsick waves. Kevin Nickles’ sax weaves a bop that’s funky and fraught.

The band themselves sum up the track nicely giving it credit for the album’s title, “We were jamming in the garage trying to work on a totally different song with a similar drum beat, says bassist Daniel Provenzano, “but after about 5 minutes of that we gave up and started fucking around on a synth pattern Kevin made up. And we just kept playing for about 20 minutes straight, and it was full of all these ideas we really loved. So, we did it a few more times and arranged it into a somewhat cohesive song- it was totally organic and fun and natural and it’s like it was there in the garage waiting for us to play it… so that’s kind of where the album title originates. That song came out of the ether.” Nickles concurs, noting “Yea that pretty much sums it up. We just jammed and all the parts kinda magically came to us, then we Holdger Czukay-ed the thing together, hahaha!”

Out of The Ether is out January 25th via Trouble in Mind. Better be ready.


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